Lord Jacob Rothschild, one of the most prominent members of the legendary family of financiers and a major donor to Israel, tells The Jerusalem Report in a rare interview published this week that he is sympathetic to the social protests that have swept Israel, the US and much of Europe, and criticizes the modern banking system for its “crippling effect in a number of areas throughout the world.”

Speaking to the Report, Lord Rothschild, chairman of the Yad Hanadiv family foundation that helped finance the construction of the Knesset, the Supreme Court and the new National Library, as well as the Open University, Educational TV and many other major projects, breaks his silence for the first time about the thinking behind the Rothschilds’ philanthropic work in Israel and speaks frankly about his efforts to ensure that the Jewish and Zionist involvement of the family continues in future generations.

“I don’t think I’ve ever had a minute off in Israel,” he told the Report. “I’ve been completely and utterly devoted to what Hanadiv does. I’m not saying I’m a good guy for that. It’s just the way the dice have fallen.”

Although he is one of the world’s top financiers with a personal fortune estimated by the Sunday Times of London at some $600 million, Lord Rothschild displays surprising consideration for the Occupy movements.

“I have a lot of sympathy with people who protested about some of the excesses in the world of finance,” he told the Report. “After all, here are characters who have made great fortunes who have been in charge of a system which has been very damaging to many interests in the last five to 10 years. They have had enormous benefits but the banking system as a whole has had a crippling effect in a number of areas throughout the world.”

Lord Rothschild said the work of Yad Hanadiv, established by Baron Edmond de Rothschild a century ago, has concentrated on helping to develop higher education and scientific research in Israel.

“We identify higher education as a role where we could make a difference,” he said.

“Israel was a relatively poor country that once needed soup kitchens more than it does today,” he told the Report. “Today the role of philanthropy in Israel, given the prosperity of this country, is a very different one. We like to think we’re doing things that wouldn’t have happened had we not become involved.

“I think the National Library is a good example,” he said. “I think it frankly wouldn’t have happened if we hadn’t come along with our proposal.”

He first visited Israel 50 years ago with his close friend, the Oxford University philosopher Isaiah Berlin, at the urging of his cousins James and Dorothy de Rothschild. He has visited every year since to oversee the work of the foundation. When Dorothy died, she bequeathed the stewardship of the foundation, as well as its £97m. in assets, to Jacob.

The full interview is published in the new edition of The Jerusalem Report.

Please LIKE our Facebook page - it makes us stronger